Robotics and Automation

Robotics and Automation applies innovative technologies to problems in robotics, robot-human interaction, manufacturing and health care. Our research ranges from artificial intelligence to autonomous and remotely operated robot technologies, including applications in additive manufacturing, underground mine safety, magnetic guidance for placement of probes for deep brain stimulation and remote telesurgery. We use both high-performance computational and physical prototyping methods to advance research in these areas.

Research Faculty

Andrew Petruska

Research Group:
M3 Robotics

  • Complex system modeling and design
  • Dynamics and control
  • Advanced magnetic manipulation

Xiaoli Zhang

Research Group: Intelligent Robotics and Systems Lab

  • Smart human-machine/robot interaction and cooperation
  • Shared autonomy
  • Efficient and robust machine learning for robots and autonomous systems
  • Adaptive design of experiments
  • Artificial intelligence-powered automation and acceleration of engineering process optimization and science discovery

Research Centers and Groups 

Labs and Capabilities

Intelligent Robotics and Systems Laboratory

Researchers in the Intelligent Robotics and Systems Lab seek to develop artificial intelligence techniques to improve the flexibility, adaptability and robustness of robots and complex systems so they can deal with changing or new problems and situations.

Toward this goal, IRSL researchers develop cognitive architectures to achieve a relatively high level of robot autonomy. These architectures allow robots to understand high-level, abstract, implicit knowledge and use this knowledge in a flexible way to generate behaviors that compensate for limitations or changing conditions or to handle new situations or tasks.

Teleoperation Zone:

  • Free Hand Teleoperation through Optitrack IR cameras and RGBD cameras paired with a VR headset to infer human hand pose and user intent
  • Tool Use Teleoperation through a 3D Systems Touch haptic joystick and Tobii eye gaze tracker to provide feedback to a user during cooperation tasks


  • 6 DoF Kinova MICO arm to complete teleoperation and autonomous tasks
  • Softbank's Pepper/Nao to mimic human motion in remote environments
  • Hummingbird Quadcopter high payload capacity, used for maneuver learning
  • Turtlebot: lightweight easy to use mobile robot. Used for teaching and introducing students to mobile robotics
  • ROSbot: lightweight differential drive mobile robot
  • Magni: High payload(100kg) differential drive mobile robot

Contact: Dr. Xiaoli Zhang (

M3 Robotics Laboratory

Researchers in the M3Robotics lab perform fundamental and applied research to enable transformative technologies in the areas of medical robotics, mining and GPS-denied robotics, and magnetic manipulation. Examples of ongoing work include applying probabilistic methods to enable magnetically manipulated flexible catheters for incision-free surgeries and simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) for navigation or augmented reality display in underground environments. Students make contributions in the areas of model development, system identification, and experimental evaluation.


  • Extensive in-house library of C++ codes to support the application of Markov process estimators and real-time control of complex dynamic systems
  • Efficient codes for the modeling and calibration of DC magnetic fields from multiple sources
  • Analysis packages: COMSOL, MatLab, SolidWorks


  • 2x Quadrotors for autonomous navigation experiments
  • ClearPath Husky for ground navigation experiments
  • 4 LiDAR scanners and 3 mmWave radar scanners
  • 6-Coil Helmholtz magnetic system (10 cm workspace, 30 mT fields)
  • Clinically sized permanent magnet system (60 cm workspace, 50 mT fields)
  • ABB industrial 6-DoF robotic arm

Contact: Dr. Andrew Petruska (

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